Michael Pavlovich earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Animation from RSAD in 2005. Initially, he contributed to the development of environment and character art for popular video games such as Madden and NCAA Football. Later, he relocated to Austin to join Daybreak Games, where he worked on the creation of art assets for DC Universe Online.
Presently, Michael holds the position of Director of Character, Weapon, and Vehicle Art at Certain Affinity. His expertise lies in implementing iterative pipelines for Certain Affinity artists helping develop renowned video game franchises, including Halo, Call of Duty, and DOOM. To stay updated on his latest tutorial projects, you can visit Michael’s YouTube or ArtStation page.
PART 1 : Using Character Creator with ZBrush Pose Tools Plugin to Create & Organize Poses
ZBrush has been known for its powerful asset creation capabilities, but posing complex high-poly characters has always been a challenge. However, with the introduction of GoZ and the Pose Tools plugin, rigging, animating, and storing poses can now be accomplished in just minutes. The easy-to-use, single-button interface simplifies the process of applying poses to ZBrush characters, opening up a world of possibilities for making your creations come alive. By integrating Character Creator (CC) into their pipelines, artists can further harness the capabilities of this plugin and unlock new possibilities for introducing fresh poses.
To begin, it is essential to have all the necessary components installed.
Follow these steps:
- Open the Reallusion Hub and ensure you have the latest version of CC installed.
- In the “Add-ons for CC” section, install ZBrush Pose Link.
- Next, click on the “Product Home” button for ZBrush Pose Tools. This action will redirect you to a Reallusion download/install page.
- On the Reallusion Download & Install page, click the Free Download Button for ZBrush Pose Tools.
- After downloading, unzip the files.
- Locate and copy the “Data” folder and “PoseTools.zsc” files.
- Paste them into the “ZStartup\ZPlugs64” folder, or wherever you have ZBrush installed.
By following these steps, you will have successfully installed ZBrush Pose Tools for CC.
Demo Soldier Setup
Let’s work with the demo soldier character as it is accessible to everyone. Our goal is to cover both rigid binding (accessories or objects bound to a single joint) and soft binding (objects bound to multiple joints in a hierarchy).
Follow these steps:
- Separate the “kneeGuard” subtool into right and left subtools. This division will allow us to bind these as accessories inside CC later on.
- Ensure that each subtool has a unique and meaningful name. This will facilitate easy selection from a list and minimize errors that may arise from identical names or special characters that could cause issues.
By following these steps, we can effectively work with the demo soldier character, organizing subtools and preparing them for binding as accessories in CC.
To facilitate easy access, dock the Pose Tools ZPlugin on the left side of your screen. You can either select a preset or manually enter a size in centimeters or feet. Ensure that the main body of your character subtool is selected, and then click the “Resize” button. This will ensure that your character is scaled to real-world units. This is not only beneficial for compatibility with CC but also for any application that requires your asset to be accurately scaled to a specific unit of measure.
Click the “GoZ All” button in ZBrush to launch CC (if it is not already open) and initiate the rigging process by sending over the lowest subdivision versions of your asset.
If you need to configure GoZ, click the “R” button next to it. Additionally, you can access more options by going to “Preferences > GoZ”.
AccuRIG – Skeleton Creation
Within CC, click the “Update” button in the GoZ dialog box. This action will import all your subtools as grouped props. To initiate the rigging process, click the AccuRIG button located in the Modify panel. Upon entering AccuRIG mode, you will notice that your model automatically adjusts to position its feet on the ground plane.
To focus on the body, hide all objects except for the body itself. With the “Selected Meshes” option enabled, create guides by clicking the corresponding button. Utilize the placement diagrams to accurately position the guides. Once you have positioned the guides, press the “Generate Skeleton” button.
This step will convert the guides into joints and provide additional guides for the fingers. To position the finger guides, follow the same process as you did for the body guides. You can conveniently navigate to the hand area by clicking the frame buttons, which will swiftly move your camera accordingly.
AccuRig – Bind Skin
Now, make your objects visible again, but this time only select the parts of your character that should deform along with the skeleton. Leave any objects that shouldn’t bend during animation unselected, such as hats, armor, glasses, and similar items. Proceed to click the Bind Skin button.
This action will bind the selected bendable parts to the skeleton, grouping them together. The non-bendable objects will be placed in a separate group above as accessories. To ensure everything is working properly, you can click the “Check Animation” button to test your asset before exiting the AccuRIG mode. Once you are satisfied with the results, click the AccuRIG button again to exit AccuRIG mode.
Relink Your ZBrush File
It’s important to remember that when we entered AccuRIG mode, our character was automatically positioned to stand on the ground plane. Therefore, we need to update our ZBrush model to match this alignment. To do so, select the topmost group object for your character and click the GoZ button located at the top of the interface. In the dialogue box, ensure that “Relink” is automatically chosen for all your objects. Additionally, select “Current Pose” and then click the “GoZ” button. This action will send the vertex positions of your newly bound objects from CC back to ZBrush, updating the character’s location accordingly.
You will also notice that the subdivision history for your subtools in ZBrush remains intact, preserving any high-resolution details you have sculpted. It is recommended to save both your Character Creator and your ZBrush file. You can do this by navigating to “File > Save As” in both applications.
Adding Poses and Animations to Your Character
Back in CC, go to the “Content” tab and include an animation for your character. Explore the timeline to locate the ideal pose, and utilize the “Edit Pose” button in the “Modify > Motion Pose” tab to make precise adjustments. You can also drag a pose onto your character or select an animation from the “Motion” menu in the “Animation Playback” section.
Sending Poses Back to ZBrush
Once you have chosen a pose you like, go to the “Plugins > ZBrush Pose Link” menu. There, you will find options for sending the T/A poses to ZBrush, as well as the option to send the current character pose. Select the option to send your current pose back to ZBrush, which will save the pose data as a layer for each subtool.
Moreover, it will organize the pose into a conveniently selectable button. You can rename a pose by selecting it, and you can easily switch between poses using these buttons.
In subsequent articles, we will explore the remaining features of the Pose Tools plugin. However, what we have covered so far should encompass the majority of what you will need.
PART 2 : Posing a Custom ZBrush Character in CC with custom & library accessories
Now that we are familiar with the fundamental procedure, let’s discuss how you can bring your custom accessories into CC for posing, as well as how to import pre-existing assets from the CC library back into ZBrush. If you’re interested in creating a character of this nature, I have a 12-part series available on ArtStation Learning that you can follow along with. It provides detailed guidance and instructions for the entire process.
Polycount & ZRemesh
One important consideration is the polygon count when sending your model to CC. While you can create highly detailed models with millions of polygons in ZBrush, attempting to pose such a dense mesh would be extremely challenging. Instead, you can utilize ZRemesher and Project functions in ZBrush to generate a lower-density subdivision mesh that can be easily rigged and animated. By projecting your details onto higher-density subdivisions, you can preserve the intricate details without sacrificing performance. The step-by-step process for achieving this is thoroughly explained in the accompanying video.
Transferring Polypaint to Textures
One drawback of transferring a low-resolution mesh is that the quality of your polypaint may appear blurry without the high-resolution vertices to support it. However, this issue can be addressed by transferring the polypaint data (vertex color) from the high- to low-poly geometry. By doing this, your character will maintain its visual appeal during animation in CC. If you don’t mind animating with only the low-poly geometry, you can skip this step as it doesn’t affect functionality but rather just enhances the visuals.
The process for transferring the model is similar to the previous setup. Just resize your character using the Pose Tools plugin (be sure to select your body mesh during resizing), and then send it to CC using GoZ. You will observe that the subtools with transferred polypaint as textures will appear as intended. However, objects without textures may lose their color. To address this, you have two options.
First, you can change the geometry display from “Normal” to “Smooth” to visualize the vertex color (polypaint) transferred from ZBrush. Alternatively, you can navigate to the “Modify > Material” tab and select a diffuse color for that specific object to restore its original color.
AccuRIG & Animation
Once again, the process is identical to the one demonstrated with the soldier. Begin by selecting all the objects that will undergo deformation and click on “Bind Skin” in AccuRIG. Make sure to choose “Selected Meshes” to bind only the selected objects.
Objects that should remain rigid, such as glasses, headphones, and the Walkman, should be left unselected. After binding the skin, you can exit AccuRIG and proceed to apply animations or poses to your character without any issues.
In ZBrush, append any custom accessories that you wish to pose your character with. Afterward, use the “GoZ All” function to send the entire scene back to CC. The newly appended subtools will automatically be added as accessories. Select them and adjust their pivot points to ensure they align properly with the character’s interaction, such as placing them in the character’s right hand in this case.
Remember to modify the “Attach to” section to the appropriate bone for your character, such as “CC_Base_R_Hand”. Once the accessory positions are adjusted, use the “GoZ” button within CC to relay the updated positions of the accessories back to ZBrush.
Adding CC Accessories
In the “Content” tab of CC, locate the “Accessory” section. From there, you can either drag and drop the desired accessories onto your character or obtain accessories from the Reallusion Content Store. By default, accessories are assigned to joints based on the best guess. For instance, sunglasses and hats are typically attached to the “CC_Base_Head” joint. However, you have the freedom to update the pivot, reposition the objects, and modify their attachments as per your requirements.
Once you have made the necessary adjustments, ensure that all objects in your scene are visible and selected. Then, use the GoZ feature in CC to transfer the updated scene, including the new accessories, back to ZBrush. This way, your ZBrush scene will be seamlessly updated with the newly added accessories.
Posing & Visibility Sets
Similar to the previous article, you can create multiple poses in CC and then send them back to ZBrush for convenient storage and access. To accomplish this, use the option “Send Current Pose to ZBrush Pose Tools” located in the “Plugins > ZBrush Pose Link” menu. This will store your poses and make them easily accessible within ZBrush. Additionally, for each pose, you can assign a “Subtool Visibility Set”, enabling you to show or hide specific subtools associated with that pose.
PART 3 : CC Cloth Simulation, Weight Paint, & ZBrush Cloth Sculpting
In addition to binding objects to a skeleton, we can enhance the CC by incorporating cloth simulation. This means that as our character animates, cloth objects will move and behave realistically, flowing naturally with their movements. If you’re intrigued by the idea of designing such dynamic characters, I invite you to join a series of livestreams where I demonstrate the entire creation process.
UVs for Cloth Objects
The initial steps for setting up your character will remain the same as demonstrated in the previous tutorial (naming your subtools, ensuring lower subdivisions for GoZ transfer, etc.). However, for the objects intended to be simulated in CC, it’s important to have UVs in place for generating a weight map later on. To expedite the UV creation process, we will employ the UV Master plugin in ZBrush.
Once you have rigged and bound your character, you may encounter a few problematic areas. In our case, the cloth around the character’s neck may exhibit unnatural bending when the head moves, and the cloth cloak might appear as if it’s stuck to the limbs. To address both of these issues, follow these steps:
- Select the problematic cloth objects and navigate to the “Modify” panel.
- Click on the “Skin Weights” button.
- For the neck cloth, use the paint operation to ensure that it stays connected to the “CC_Base_Spine02” bone.
- As for the cloak, employ the Selection mode and perform a “Quick Replace” operation on all vertices associated with the cloth. Assign them to the “Spine02” bone.
By executing these steps, you should be able to rectify the bending of the neck cloth and ensure that the cloak follows the movements of the “Spine02” bone without appearing stuck to the character’s limbs.
To create the illusion of the cloth coming in contact with the character’s body without incurring the performance cost of using the body geometry itself, we can employ collision shapes. By pressing the “Collision Shape” button, we can add shapes to specific areas of the body where the cloak will interact, such as the chest, shoulders, and arms.
To activate physics for the selected character group, follow these steps:
- With the top character group selected, navigate to the “Modify” section.
- Click on the “Physics” tab within the “Modify” section.
- Check the box labeled “Activate Physics” to enable physics simulations for the character.
Once you activate physics, CC will prompt you to assign a weight map to the materials. In this case, we want to associate the weight map with the “Cloth Cloak” material. However, since we don’t have an image for the weight map yet, we can create one using ZBrush. Here’s how:
- Return to ZBrush and polypaint the desired areas of the character where the cloth will be bound, in this case, “Spine02”. This will serve as our weight map.
- Transfer the polypaint information to a texture, similar to how we did it with the socks earlier.
- Export the texture as our weight map.
Finally, in CC, we can plug the exported weight map into the material assigned to the cloth. The black parts of the weight map will be bound to the “Spine02” object, while the white parts will move freely like cloth, colliding with the collision shapes as the character animates.
Rigid Body, Soft Cloth, & Animation
To achieve the desired effect, follow these steps:
- Enable the Rigid Body and Soft Cloth simulation options. You can find them at the top of your menu or by checking the respective boxes in the “Edit > Project Settings” menu.
- Additionally, consider turning on the “Bake Animation” option while you’re in the settings menu. This allows you to scrub the timeline smoothly after the cloth simulation is completed.
- Now, proceed to add an animation from the “Content” tab. Choose the desired animation that you want to apply to the cloth.
- Finally, click the “Play” button in the animation player to start the playback.
Tip: To ensure the cloth reacts appropriately throughout each frame of the animation, change the playback setting from “Realtime” to “ByFrame”.
This will provide a frame-by-frame playback, allowing the cloth to respond accurately.
Pose Tools and Editing
As always, follow these steps to utilize the Pose Tools in ZBrush using the “Plugins > ZBrush Pose Link > Send Active Pose” option. This will transmit all the available pose options to ZBrush. After completing this step, click the “Edit Current Pose” button within the ZBrush Pose Tools plugin. This action will activate the REC button for each layer in the pose, enabling you to make sculptural modifications to any subtool.
Once you have finished editing, click the “Save Current Record” button. You can then proceed to edit your next pose or import a new pose from CC into ZBrush Pose Tools.
PART 4 : Pose Tools ZBrush Plugin: Layer & Pose Management with CC
We’ve discussed using CC to create poses, but what about utilizing ZBrush for posing? Have you ever used ZBrush to pose before, perhaps using layers, but now you want to convert them into Pose Tools poses? The process is straightforward.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Open ZBrush and navigate to “ZPlugin > Transpose Master”.
- Make the desired pose changes using masking and gizmo/transpose lines.
- With the Layer activated, press the “TPose | SubT” button. This action will send your Transpose Master changes back to your subtools, storing each change as a generic layer.
- To make these layers recognized by Pose Tools, click the “Convert Layers to Pose” button.
By following these steps, you can seamlessly transition your ZBrush layers into Pose Tools poses, making it super easy to work with your desired poses.
Dynamic Cloth Simulation in ZBrush
Notice how we opted not to sculpt our cloak using Transpose Master. Instead, we can achieve the desired effect by following these steps: First, click on “Edit Current Pose” to position the cloth over the character. Then, utilize ZBrush’s dynamic cloth functionality to simulate the cloak over the body.
This feature allows you to apply cloth simulation to your sculpting brushes. For more details and guidance on ZBrush’s dynamic cloth functionality, including using cloth simulation with sculpting brushes, refer to the What’s New – ZBrush 2021 playlist.
Delete vs Remove
If you have a pose selected in the Pose Tools plugin, there are two options to remove it:
- Press the “Remove” button: This will remove the pose from the Pose Tools library while keeping the edited layers in the subtools intact.
- Use the “Delete” button: This option deletes the layers from the subtools, effectively removing the pose data from both the subtools and the Pose Tools plugin.
You also have the ability to create new layers for each individual subtool. These layers can be modified independently, allowing you to make specific changes such as applying a weave surface noise. The great thing is that these layers can be toggled on and off for the other posed meshes as well, providing flexibility and control over the modifications across multiple meshes.
Posing your ZBrush creations in CC is not only easy but also faster, with results that are easily organized using the Pose Tools pose library. With minimal preparation, your creations can achieve more, faster, and with higher quality compared to traditional manual methods. While we’re only beginning to explore the potential of Character Creator in enhancing character pipelines, this is undoubtedly a promising start!
Free Download :
Learn more :
• CC AccuRIG: Auto Rig Tool (embedded in Character Creator 4)